You are known by the company you keep.
That old saying is now relevant in the CD-5 race between Josh Gottheimer and Republican challenger Frank Pallotta.
Gottheimer fired off a release Thursday accusing Pallotta of cavorting with domestic terrorists. These would be the Oath Keepers, which the release called a “homegrown domestic terrorism group in New Jersey, as designated by the New Jersey Departmenti of Homeland Security and Preparedness.” It went on to say that the Oath Keepers have a long record of “blatant discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism.”
And it identified a local leader of the Oath Keepers as a “senior campaign advisor” to Pallotta.
That would be William J. Hayden of Sussex County. More from him later.
It is not all that uncommon for a candidate to accuse his opponent of having unsavory ties.
What is a little different in this case is Pallotta’s reaction.
To sum up, his response is: Damn right these are my friends, bring it on.
“My supporters are my supporters,” Pallotta says in a debate clip posted on his Facebook page. “They’re not racists. They’re not xenophobes, they’re not home-grown terrorists. They’re good people”
And no, Pallotta will not denounce them.
That stance prompted Gottheimer to say in his release that Pallotta “continues to ‘stand by’ the Oath Keepers and the hate they spew.” The ‘stand by’ term, of course, was used by President Trump in the first presidential debate in regard to the Proud Boys, a far-right group prone to violence.
As for the Oath Keepers, the Anti-Defamation League calls them a “loosely-organized anti-government extremist group” that seeks recruits from former and active military members and law enforcement officers.
The Oath Keepers describe themselves as a group dedicated to upholding the U.S. Constitution.
Hayden responded to Gottheimer’s charge with a Facebook video of his own.
“I’m definitely not a white supremacist,” he says. “I’m definitely not a domestic terrorist.”
At the same time, he said John Adams, Sam Adams, George Washington and James Madison were terrorists “to the crown.”
A few months ago, I encountered Hayden at a reopen-New Jersey rally in Trenton. When I observed that polls showed most in the state support Gov. Phil Murphy’s pandemic policies, Hayden said King George had good approval ratings too – until he didn’t.
Clearly, Hayden likes keeping company with the Founding Fathers.